Today is National Stress Awareness Day

November 1, 2023

Today (1 November) is International Stress Awareness Day, which was set up by the International Stress Management Association to campaign against the stigma associated with stress and mental health issues.

The theme for 2023 is “Beyond Stress Management: From Stigma to Solutions” to highlight the solutions that will help to reduce the high incidence of stress and mental health-related issues in our society today.

Stress awareness day

Feeling stressed and being under pressure is a normal part of life, but becoming overwhelmed by stress can lead to mental health problems or make existing problems worse.

Millions around the UK experience stress and it is damaging to our health and wellbeing. The Mental Health Foundation reported that at some point in the last year, 74% of us have felt so stressed that we have felt unable to cope.

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. When you are stressed your body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which is your body’s reaction to help you deal with pressure or threats, sometimes called a “fight or flight” response. Your stress hormone levels usually return to normal once the pressure or threat has passed.

A small amount of stress can be useful as it can motivate you to take action and get tasks completed, and can also make you feel alive and excited. On the other hand, too much stress can cause negative effects such as a change in your mood, your body, and relationship issues.

There are many things you can do to reduce your symptoms of stress also known as self-care:

  • start a stress diary to help identify areas in your life that cause stress, list triggers that make you unwell, and see how you can change them;
  • get practical advice if there is a particular issue causing your stress, such as housing, benefits, money or employment advice;
  • plan your time to make you feel more in control, and reward yourself for any achievements;
  • talk to someone about how you are feeling;
  • make lifestyle changes that could affect your stress levels, such as reducing your caffeine intake, exercising to relieve stress, making sure you get enough sleep, and eating a balanced diet;
  • practice positive thinking instead of focusing on the negatives;
  • practise mindfulness to help you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and the world around you.
Stress in the workplace

Stress is defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the “adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”.

There are many factors that can cause stress at work, including:

  • too many or conflicting demands;
  • poor working conditions;
  • little control over how and when work is done or the decision making;
  • lack of support or encouragement from managers and others at work;
  • bullying or conflict at work, particularly if these are not managed well;
  • not having enough training or skills to do a job;
  • feeling unclear about roles and responsibilities;
  • low trust and not feeling able to speak up about concerns;
  • change within the organisation.

Employees should look after their own health and wellbeing at work. If they are experiencing stress, they should talk to their manager as soon as they can. Managers should also look for any signs of stress among their employees, including:

  • poor concentration;
  • finding it hard to make decisions;
  • being irritable or short-tempered;
  • tearful;
  • tiredness;
  • low mood;
  • avoiding social events.

If an employer or employee spots signs of stress, it can be helpful to have an informal chat to understand how the person is feeling and what support they need. Managers could encourage their employees to do a “Wellness Action Plan” which can help them to think about what is causing them stress and talk to their manager and get the support they need.

Managers can support employees with work-related stress by:

  • talking about work-related stress in a sensitive and supportive way, in a private, informal chat which is clear about confidentiality;
  • keeping in touch if someone is off with work-related stress with a regularity that is agreed upon by both the employer and employee so it is not overwhelming;
  • have a return to work meeting to make sure the employee is ready to return, and if they need any support, including a stress risk assessment;
  • make adjustments that might help such as flexible working hours, more rest breaks, different responsibilities, helping them with their workload, or providing more training or mentoring;
  • creating an action plan with the employee on what they can do to reduce workplace stress.

To create a positive environment at work and help prevent work-related stress, employers should:

  • have a clear policy on mental health and stress;
  • address the causes of stress through risk assessments and employee surveys;
  • encourage people to raise their concerns;
  • provide training for managers;
  • support their employees;
  • promote a work-life balance;
  • provide employees with access to support.

This is valid as of 1st November 2023.

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